CHIBA, JAPAN -- For Kunio Nakamura, president of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., the much-discussed era of the ubiquitous network society, is "just around the corner." And with Japan in the vanguard, much of the world that is already networked will be online, anywhere, anytime, for anyone, by 2010, he said Tuesday in a keynote address on the opening day of Ceatec 2004 in Japan.
Japan already has most of the pieces it needs to achieve just that, he said in a speech titled, "Creating a Ubiquitous Network Society, Japan, a Nation Built on Technology."
"Our basic functions are already served, and we have a solid base for such services by 2010," he said.
Already, more than half of Japan's Internet subscribers use broadband, which includes ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) and cable TV access, and connections through fiber optics. There is one PC per 10 students in Japanese schools.
Japanese companies can provide and Japanese society already has what he called the three key foundations to build the ubiquitous society: the network infrastructure; the terminal equipment technology, and the services, although, he admitted that new and more compelling content were badly needed to fill the networked society of 2010.
Nakamura made several predictions, and issued several warnings, before ending the address on an utopian note.
By 2010, the average network connection speed to the home will be 10 times faster than today's ADSL in Japan. Connection speeds will be up to 50 times faster than the current WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) network technology.
In Japan, ADSL services run at advertised speeds of 50Mbps. WCDMA works at speeds up to 384Kbps.
Digital terrestrial television, which started in December 2003 in several of Japan's major cities, will drive products and services. As of October 2004, already 2.4 million Japanese households were able to watch digital TV, and Japanese consumers are beginning to switch to buying plasma and liquid crystal display en masse, Nakamura said.
"By the end of this August, 1.35 million digital TV units were shipped in Japan, a much more favorable figure than we forecasted," he said.
Japanese companies are already developing networked DVD recorders and players, TVs and other devices that enable people to watch, record, download and control different devices in different rooms. But the switch from watching analog TV together with the increasing willingness of Japanese households to download digital content is now also driving a move for more people to treat their home PCs as TV-centric entertainment devices. Japan's latest trend is "bro-dra," or watching broadband drama on PCs, Nakamura said.
"TV to watch is becoming TV to use," he said.
Digital broadcasting, which will become nationwide in 2006, will also drive new functionality in Japan's mobile phones, Nakamura predicted. As MPEG-2 digital content is broadcast to mobile phones, these devices will become more useful clients, providing new entertainment and interactive features.
Against this, consumers' needs for simplicity, security, convenience and usefulness must be met by industry, he warned.
"People have high expectations of technology to help their safety and security. Security, when you are away from home," Nakamura said.